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Friday, March 18, 2011

DREAM MERCHANTS ON CHENNAI'S ARCOT ROAD

There is a Hollywood; Bollywood is the Mumbai film industry’s popular identity;and Kollywood stands for the Tamil film word. The ‘K’ comes from Kodambakkam where the South Indian film industry took root and flourished from the late 40’s. However, the gigantic studios set up by film makers on cheap land sprung up beyond Vadapalani temple and in Saligramam churning out their creations of dreams.

Madras Presidency became the Capital for most of South Indian and Sri Lankan cinema. In 1948 AVM studios moved to Vadapalani from Karaikudi and have been the prime producers of films and TV serials. They have indoor and outdoor sets, street scenes, temple, village and other sets. The studios are equipped with modern supporting infrastructure like recording, dubbing and editing studios and a preview theatre. The studios are open to the public to enter the dream world of films and entry is free between 9.00 to 18.00 daily. AVM Studios also has a Go-Karting centre within the studios.

Prasad Studios and Prasad Film Labs was started by L.V. Prasad in 1956 and have produced over 150 movies in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Hindi. The studios has some of the best post production equipment and facilities for feature film and advertising. They have state-of-the-art Shooting Floors and Equipment, Film Processing and Printing facilities, 6 film labs, 17 audio recording and mixing studios, 3 large VFX studios, digital intermediate suites, digital restoration studios, telecine suites and DVD authoring suites. To commemorate their fiftieth anniversary, Ramesh Prasad, scion of the family launched the L.V.Prasad Film and TV Academy, an institute to train passionate youngsters in the different aspects of movie making.

To cater to the huge clientele generated by the film industry, both restaurant and bar goers and the others visiting the area connected with the many aspects of movie making, there are a few good hotels near the studios. Hotel Green Park, Hotel Aaditya and Hotel Maurya flourish with film folks patronage.Stars too are investing in restaurants--Simran who has now shifted gears into domesticity has opened 'Aapa Kadai' in Dubai and now in Chennai as well. Other stars have interests in hotels surreptitiously....what is known as 'benaami' or nameless!

Sadly, with dud productions and lack of second and third generation involvement in the risky business of film making, many of the famous studios have down sized or closed down. Vijaya converted some of their space into a hospital and Kalyana Mandapam. Majestic and Bhanumathy’s Bharani Studios have closed down. The vast studio spaces of land are slowly being developed into housing complexes and commercial spaces.

In surrounding colonies of Vadapalani, Saligramam and Valasaravakkam villas and Spanish style sprawling mansions and imitative French chalets have been built, decorated and furnished to cater to the TV and film location demands. Some are even equipped with swimming pools and gyms. Many of these are owned by artists themselves as a clever investment in real estate and source of regular income.

When you are driving on Arcot Road watch out for the dream merchants in SUV’s and top end luxury vehicles. Behind the blackened glass you may catch a glimpse of a star. Or it could be a Madhavan or Simbu--young stars of Tamizh cinema--riding incognito behind helmets on high powered bikes on their way to donning on makeup and roles to face the cameras.

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